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Dr Ian Plummer

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TPO Tactics

Peeling your opponent's 4-back ball through its remaining three hoops and pegging it out (a Triple Peel on Opponent - TPO) is a fairly standard manouvre in top level croquet. It is normally done when the opponent's other ball is still on first hoop. The striker then has both balls on the lawn and the opponent only one. It leaves the opponent few options in the remaining game as any shot given will be long and either suicidal if missed, or yield an extremely difficult route to building a break.

As normally the striker's other ball is also on the first hoop when carrying out the TPO, the striker concedes a contact, or optionally a lift (under Law 36). Clearly the striker cannot afford to join up at the end of their turn.

When to try for a TPO is a complex issue. If you try and fail you are only advancing the opponent's game and may give them everything on a plate due to the lifts and contacts. If you reckon that with a hit-in and four balls on the lawn they will complete a triple themselves to win, and they are a good shot, then a TPO looks more seductive. It also relies on you being capable of reliably completing the TPO and getting accurate leaves. If the striker's backward ball was well advanced on the opponent's backward ball it can be be a good tactic to complete the TPO and peg out both the opponent and themselves.

What is a Good TPO Contact Leave?

Chris Clark writes: Historically, corners 2 and 4 were used. These have the advantage of not only being distant from corner 1, but it doesn't matter if you don't get right in the corner because they are not lift corners. More recently, this has been altered and the ball in corner 4 is moved about 7 yards further North, so that hoop 4 is now in the way of the roll to hoop 1. If you take-off from the ball in corner 2, it is a long take-off and hoop 2 is slightly in the way. You are also not guaranteed to improve the position of the ball just North of hoop 4. As an alternative, you could also try moving the corner 4 ball much further North (about 9 yards South of hoop 3, so that hoop 3 is in the way of the backward ball going to corner 2 if you play to roll a ball to hoop 2, going the ball in corner 2.

Jenny Williams writes: I don't really like the option here [CC, above] of putting balls in corner 2 and corner 3 - too easy to take contact in corner 3, roll it out to your favourite position between hoops 1 and 2 going to the corner 2 ball and having a take-off to get the break started or at least a squeeze. Additionally, having the take-off from corner 2 to approach hoop 1 gives a great opportunity to move that ball out a few yards thereby making the continuation of the break easier if you run 1.

Paddy Chapman writes: When giving away a contact after a TPO, you'd generally leave your balls (assuming the others are for 1) in corner 2 and corner 3 (preferably your hoop 1 ball in corner 2) and leave the opponent's ball pretty much anywhere, as it has a contact anyway. There are other leaves such as: instead of having the corner 3 ball in corner 3, put it at a point about 7-8 yards South of corner 3, so you have furniture in the way of the opponent going from one to the other and getting a rush.

Ball Positions for a Straight Rover Peel in a TPO

Chris Clark writes: Obviously, the first answer is that you shouldn't be needing to peel rover straight on a TPO, but we all do from time to time. There are two options that depend on how well placed the peelee is at rover and how important you preferred leave is. With a good peelee that you are confident of Irish peeling from say 6 to 9 inches, you could leave partner at the peg (say 1 yard South East if you want the ball level with hoop 4 or 1 yard East if you want it 9 yards South of corner 3, or 1 yard West if you want it in corner 2) When the peel is likely to be more difficult, it is tempting to have all 4 balls to play with. I prefer having partner 2 feet East of rover and about an inch South to provide an escape ball for either an Irish peel or a stop shot peel followed by gentle hoop. You can then rush it off the East boundary, take-off to the enemy ball which should be your deep ball (2-3 yards off South boundary), to obtain a good rush to the peg, then just hit to corner 2 with your last shot.

Paddy Chapman writes: For the straight rover peel, if I think it's going to be an easy peel (6" or so), I leave my partner ball just West of the peg, just having the three balls around rover, because when I rush the peelee ball to the peg, it can then be pegged out, gaining a rush to corner 2 to set up the above leave.

If my play is rough and I just want to get the peel done, worrying about the leave second, I'll bring my partner down to beside rover (preferably East). Once the peel is done, I'll rush my partner out to the East boundary, then take off back to the 4th ball, using that to gain a rush on the peelee ball to the peg.

When to Peg Out Both Balls

Assuming your backward ball is for hoop 6

Chris Clark writes: Very dependent on who I am playing, how I am playing, the lawn conditions, etc. If you do peg both balls out the following are my top 3 choices for positioning your hoop 6 ball.

  1. In hoop 6 (not too difficult to achieve providing you have all 3 peels before 3-back)
  2. Corner 3 (can be tricky to achieve)
  3. In position just North of level with hoop 4 on East boundary as previously described.

Paddy Chapman writes: John Solomon recommends at least a 5-hoop lead (I think) if you're to peg both balls out. It all depends on my opponent.

If you leave the ball IN hoop 6 [CC - a) above], they could always take the lift and rush it to hoop 1. And even if they miss it, they'll be 6 yards in front of hoop 1 which will prevent sitting in front of 1-back. Though, like you said, it all depends on the opponent.

Chris Clark responds: You are obviously correct that I offer them that opportunity. However, to look at it another way, if you leave your ball anywhere else, they can split in front of hoop 1 from the contact and if they don't get position, they can take good position. It is then risky for you to take position at 6, so you go into a corner, they run 1 and take position at 2, you still can't go to 6, they run 2 and either take position at 3, or do something else dependant upon where your ball is an by the time you run 6, they are
probably on hoop 4 and your lead is substantially diminished. I will let them have their shot at me in 6, then I will let them have their 6 yard hoop 1 with me in front of 1-back hopefully. But as we agree, it does depend on who you're playing and what the lawn conditions are like.

Samir Patel writes: Chris describes the problems with leaving only two balls on the lawn when for hoops 6 v 1 - you can quickly find your lead reduced to 6 v 4 before you can even take position.

However, if we're in enough control to jaws partner in 6 (presumably directly after running penult), surely we can peel it at that stage, (or rush-peel after making rover)? In either case we should be able to get our now 1-back ball somewhere safe on East boundary (or, in the case of having to rush peel, near East boundary).

Chris Clark responds: Not entirely sure. I'm sort of tempted to leave it in 6 as a tice for the B-baulk rushers which gives me the opportunity to take position at 1-back with them on the South boundary. I don't think anyone could ever say you were wrong to peel to 1-back. I guess the key to this position is that 1 vs 6 and 1 vs 1-back are both a bit ugly.

Assuming your backward ball is for 1-back.

Tim Murphy writes: My guess is your suggested positions when you have two balls on the court: East boundary level to hoop 4 or East boundary 9 yards South of corner 3.

Paddy Chapman writes: If you were to do the TPO with your other ball on 1-back, and peg both balls out, it helps quite a bit if you can do a peel on your partner in the same turn i.e. pegging both balls out, leaving 2-back versus 1. In that situation, as soon as they make 1, you can safely take position at 2-back. Even so, 1-back versus 1 is not a bad position!


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Updated 28.i.16
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